I’m pretty big on writing things down. I’m not one of those people who hears or reads something nice and says, “Golly, that was interesting!” and then puts that book or magazine down and continue on my way. No sir. I have to write it down. It’s a quirk, what can I say. And so, the other day when I was perusing Clear Magazine (issue 31) and came across an interview with design legends Leila and Massimo Vignelli of Vignelli Associates I found some of the things they had to say so interesting that I had to yank out one of my little spare notebooks and jot them down. Since this is not an uncommon occurrence, I soon find myself looking over some other bon mots I had scribbled out and noticed some similarities. So, I’ve laid them out here for you; I imagine it sort of as though these designers and writers are sitting around having a sort of imaginary conversation (except for Leila and Massimo, who are actually speaking to one another). Maybe we, the reader, are a sort of fly on the wall, or the quiet shy guest content just to listen and we hear bits and pieces of the conversations going around the room:
Massimo Vignelli (M): We believe that history is very important – history of yesterday, history of a thousand years ago, whatever it is. And then to design in such a way that it’s going to last, because we feel a responsibility towards the client and toward the user. Designing something that is going to last rather than be thrown away. We do not belong to the culture of waste… We despise the culture of obsolescence and are in the favor of permanence . However, having said that, we love the fact that there are trends, because trends are the sparks.
Leila Vignelli (L): Yes. Sparks for the fire.
M: Trends are the sparks; permanence is the fire. The sparks make the fire brighter, pleasant to watch… and so there is room for both. There is room for permanence and there is room for trendiness. Then each one decides what fits best for him. For us, permanence is more interesting; for others, trendiness is more fun. As a matter of fact, you could even say there is a certain permanence in trendiness. For example, look back at things done 50 years ago, 70 years ago, or think of people that were in fashion but still valid today – like Coco Chanel, who was innovative then, but still very, very good today
L: There are things which are very trendy, but because of the period, and thus the period element…
M: …They are testimonials of a time.
Emilio Pucci with model, 1953
…The reproductions also include the constricting armholes and narrow shoulders of yesteryear. Indeed, in 2001 when the firm reproduced a Marilyn Monroe look – a blouse and capris – “the pants were so tight around the calves, some clients couldn’t put their feet through,” the designer says. “But if it were different, it wouldn’t have been the real thing. I think that’s one of the reasons girls find it fashionable, because the portions are a little distorted. The idea of having real vintage collections, not only vintage-inspired, makes it really unique. It gives you a taste of what you can’t find today.
-Laudomia Pucci on designing vintage reproductions, in W Magazine. April 2009
L: We are very realistic about our design…We feel that a designer has to give that. When you see a designer do something that costs a lot of money, but you can’t sit on it…you think, okay, that is art, if you want to call it, but it is not design. A designer has a responsibility to the public, to the manufacturer – that he doesn’t do something too expensive or something they cannot sell – so something….
M:…Something very balanced. This doesn’t prevent us from looking for gestures. Beyond the function, it has to have a character. So we take that into consideration. We try to have it, but we don’t like a gesture that is contrived. You can see when it is contrived. We like to see a gesture that belongs to that object in a natural way. It’s like this [with] people, too. You like a certain amount of extravagance here and there, but not too much. You like elegance better than extravagance…. We treasure intellectual elegance much more than intellectual extravagance. That’s why we like permanence rather than trendiness. Trendiness is extravagant by nature, whereas permanence has to be elegant. Otherwise, it doesn’t survive. So elegance is a sublime state of intelligence. It’s not something that you add; it’s something that you get by taking away – by subtraction, not by addition. The moment that you add to things, you can’t get to elegance. You can get to extravagance, because extravagance is the byproduct of addition, and elegance is the byproduct of subtraction.
image by Barbara Kruger
The irony of conspicuous consumption is well past its due date after all. It’s simply not enough to throw evermore exotic materials and precious jewels at a garment. Instead a celebration of individuality and purity of design is back on the agenda. Above all, it has never seemed more apposite to make a statement with one’s wardrobe. Inspiration over aspiration, is fashion’s new holy grail.
- Susannah Frankel, “Power of Invention” Another Magazine.
via The Guardian
Hats are about escapism. Of course, they can keep you warm, or the sun off your face, but they’re predominately about escapism, about being somebody else. When I come to work this morning, there were lots of people in rain hats, and of course they perform a function of some description but they also make people look glamorous, they make them look fun. Especially if people are coming to me, they’re looking for a costume, a way into becoming somebody else. Whether you’re a lady going to Ascot or you’ve got a sort of felt on and you’re becoming Garbo, or you’re putting on a baseball cap and becoming 50 cent but you’re really a nice boy from Winchester. The self expression for the milliner is about creating something that is dynamic and can be an expression of themselves. For the person wearing the hat, it’s about expression too, not necessarily of yourself, but of another self.
-Stephen Jones, in Another Magazine
Alexander McQueen, F/W 2009 from style.com
If people are going to invest in fashion now then they need to know it’s worth it. They’re not going to want to buy a cashmere coat they can wear any season, they’re looking for something more individual than that, and from a more individual designer. Fashion is about fantasy as well as being commercial. We don’t all want to dress like soldiers in the same uniform. There is a viewpoint that people should play safe because they can’t afford to frighten their customer but, in fact, the opposite is true. You have to push forward and realise the power of fantasy and escapism. What’s the point of doing this job if you’re going to stagnate.
-Alexander McQueen, by Susannah Frankel “Power of Invention” Another Magazine
(from the Another Magazine article)((yes, I need a scanner)
That is one of the great things about being a milliner. We exist in our own little tributary, it is incredibly diverse. Fashion designers have to be precise, very clear about the boundaries surrounding their work. As a milliner you can do all sorts of different things. It’s all about instinct, and often the less though that goes into a hat, the better. Because, you see, a baseball cap, worn by the right person, can be the wildest thing on the planet; a simple beret can be Garbo. Hats don’t have to be these incredibly extravagant five-foot constructions.
-Stephen Jones, in Another Magazine
Some things to think about, hmm? But you’re kind of tired of reading and wanting to digest. Oh, alright. Some other time then; in fact, I already have an idea.